Wayne Gorry, a fifth-grade teacher from Julia Randall Elementary School, has received a $5,000 grant from Northern Arizona University’s Teachers as Investigators program.
As a result of the grant, there will be students and faculty from a university, community college and grade-school level all working together on a water quality research project in Payson.
The grant, the first of its size to an individual teacher, is for the purchase of equipment and supplies to study the Green Valley Park aquatic ponds. The fifth-grade science students will do the research with Gorry as the director, in what is considered student-centered inquiry.
“The grant will provide high quality equipment, microscopes and water testing materials,” Gorry said.
The students will monitor various Green Valley Lake pond sites monthly with the responsibility of collecting the data. Gorry will assist the students in interpreting the information. Doing the actual hands-on research helps the youngsters have the practical knowledge of taking part in science, more than they can get from books.
“The assumption is if a person does research and gathers the data, they will have a better idea of the scientific process,” said Joe Shannon, a river ecologist, the Natural Science Division chair at Gila Community College and adjunct professor/ research associate in the biology department at NAU.
Shannon encouraged Gorry to apply for the grant when they worked together on an Oak Creek project. Shannon’s interest in aquatic ecology covers many years with numerous publications and technical reports to his credit.
He will act as Gorry’s mentor and will also send graduate students from NAU to work with the fifth-graders.
Northern Arizona University collaborates with Science Foundation Arizona in providing grants to the K-12 Teachers as Investigators program. The foundation is a collaboration of public and private funds to develop the necessary resources for Arizona to become globally competitive in science and engineering.
The goal of the K-12 science and math education focus is to aid educators in gaining higher results in student achievement thereby ensuring Arizona’s ability to educate, attract and foster a globally competitive, 21st century knowledge-based work force.
“Students have all kinds of strange ideas about science. The goal is to take science the students study in the classroom and go beyond, to actively become scientists and investigators,” said Gorry.
The students will put testing equipment into the pond and collect all kinds of data, such as turbidity and temperature of the water. They also will collect macro invertebrates, take samples and learn the differences among them.
Various insects can tell the youngsters about the water quality. “That’s the most exciting part — how to determine if this is good or poor quality water,” said Gorry.
A resident of Payson since 1986, Gorry has been teaching here since 1992. He is an avid bicyclist and he and his son have been in races together. He provides the students with an after-class bicycle program.
His plan for the project is to have a Web site that anyone in Payson can access with updates on the collection of data from the students. The study will be ongoing with each succeeding fifth-grade class at Julia Randall involved.